My Foods Worldwide delivering taste of home to the African diaspora in Europe
Abdula, the current director of London, United Kingdom-based My Foods Worldwide, discovered how popular dried and smoked fish was with Africans living abroad in Europe entirely by accident.
In 2001, Abdula was running a grocery store and butchery in the Deptford area of London. Trying out new products, he stocked a few packages of African-style dried smoked fish in a corner of the store.
“There was a big demand for those products, and there was no one supplying them,” he told SeafoodSource at the 2019 Seafood Expo Global event in Brussels, Belgium.
Seeing an opportunity, Abdula began smoking and packing the fish himself. He started with 500 packages a day, working by trial and error to get the look and taste up to the specific desires of his niche market. He said that through hard work, he succeeded, and has now recorded large annual growth each year. The company currently produces 10,000 to 15,000 packages per day, he said.
“Everybody is surprised what we’re doing now,” he said. “We now have customers all over Europe. And we now do lots of private packaging for different companies, and now we do wholesale.”
My Foods Worldwide’s products include dried and smoked catfish, barracuda, tilapia, cod, tusk, crayfish, and prawns. It sources its catfish from Suriname, its crayfish from Vietnam and Thailand, its prawns from Holland, its cod from Norway and Iceland, and additional products from Spain and Africa, Abdula said.
“You have to find the right products from each country. It’s hard work to put all these products under one roof, and then to get them into every corner of Europe.”
But My Foods Worldwide clearly has found a lucrative niche, Abdula said.
“There are not many companies producing these types of products, as they’re very hard to get hold of. Once customers find us, they are straightaway interested in buying,” he said. “Over the past three years, our company has become one of biggest in the whole of Europe doing this type of trade. We think 70 percent of companies selling African food [in Europe] buy from us.”
Abdula said his company was attending Seafood Expo Global for the first time in order to find more customers.
“When the company gets bigger, you are thinking to find more customers,” he said
The hardest part of the business isn’t finding customers, he said – it’s sourcing and preparing the specialty products desired by the market.
“It’s not easy to get hold of some of these fish. We will often see the market needs 20 tons of this fish, and there is only five tons available in the whole word. And then we [needed] to have our own factory to smoke the fish,” he said. “Many countries do smoked fish, but what Africans want, only a few places do it. We are lucky to be one.”